Ground was broke for the new courthouse on July 15, 1926.
Built on the site of the old municipal park, and paid for without the use of bonds, the courthouse was expected to cost around $130,000. By the time it was completed, the final cost ran at approximately $150,000. Newspapers reported that “the building is to be ready for occupancy by January 1, 1927”, just in time for the beginning of a new year.
On that date, the city put on a huge celebration. During the grand opening ceremonies, the “Human Fly” snuck into Poteau. These performers were known for scaling public buildings in front of large crowds.
Much to the amazement of the crowd gathered to witness the ceremonies, the Human Fly climbed up the side and to the top of the newly erected courthouse. After reaching the top, he pulled out a chair and placed it on the edge of the roof. He then climbed up on it, and, with the skill and dexterity of a cat, tilted the chair back on one leg and proceeded to calmly balance himself on the chair for several minutes. Once the spectacle ended, he disappeared into the newly constructed courthouse, never to be seen again.
From 1913 until after the new courthouse was built, prisoners were housed in the old jail located across from the Reynolds Center. On June 14, 1928, Sheriff Self moved all of his prisoners from the old jail the new jail on top of the courthouse. The process of moving the prisoners was done in complete secrecy; the jailers and other law enforcement officers didn’t know what day had been decided by the sheriff. Once the day arrived, the prisoners were moved just a few at a time throughout the day. By the time night began to creep in, all of the prisoners were safely behind bars. For it’s time, this jail was one of the most secure in the state.
Here is a little known fact that’s been forgotten as time goes by. The guard house and many of the cells were constructed from the remains of an old ship. The USS Colorado, also known as “Armored Cruiser No. 7”, was constructed in 1903 and served during World War I. Initially, the ship conducted training along California and Mexican borders before being sent to the Far East until 1910. It was brought back to patrol Mexican waters until 1915. The Colorado served as the Flagship of the Pacific Reserve Fleet during the Mexican Revolution.
In 1916 the ship was renamed Pueblo and after a major overhaul. Afterwards, the ship returned to Mexico, to blockade interned German ships during World War I. The ship patrolled from Mexico south to Brazil. In 1918, the ship began serving as an escort, carrying men and supplies to England. The ship also carried the Brazilian ambassador to the United States to Rio de Janeiro before returning to transatlantic duty, where the ship made six voyages between Hoboken and Brest, France to help bring home veterans of the American Expeditionary Force.
Following the war until 1927, The Pueblo, redesignated as CA-7, served as a receiving ship in the Navy. The ship was finally scrapped in 1930 and sold for parts.
In 1932, the old jailhouse on top of the courthouse was enlarged significantly using parts from the old USS Colorado. This remained in use until the courthouse addition was constructed in the 1990s.
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